US Customs Reports More Stolen Cars Caught at Port of Savannah

stolen cars
Rolls-Royce caught by officers in a 2020 inspection (CBP)

Published Jun 30, 2023 6:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

Attempts to smuggle stolen luxury cars overseas through the Port of Savannah, Georgia is on the rise according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The service took reports from the local Georgia media on a tour of the port on Thursday to highlight their operations and the increase in stolen cars showing up at the port.

Over the past two years, CBP said it has caught more than 120 stolen vehicles attempting to pass through the port loaded in containers headed overseas. They set the value of the vehicles at more than $10 million.

This week alone they reported seizing three vehicles. They estimated that they will catch between 75 and 125 stolen cars passing through the Port of Savannah this year alone valued at anywhere between a total of $6 and $8 million. They expect to scrutinize more than three million cars moving through the Port of Savannah in 2023.

During the tour, officers highlighted that they are increasingly checking the outbound containers. They analyze the paperwork looking for suspicious or forged documents.  Suspicious containers are flagged for further inspection. 



“At the Port of Savannah, every day is game day, CBP Watch Commander Joseph Walkin told reporters during the tour. “If you bring it through the Port of Savannah, we will find you. We will prosecute you.”

Containers moving through the port are being x-rayed. When that raises more concerns, the officers said they then pull the container aside for a physical inspection. The cars are brought out and carefully searched. To identify stolen cars, they are looking for things such as mismatching or fake VIN numbers. 

They are also searching the cars for contraband that is being smuggled out of the country. They are looking for guns, money, and narcotics all hidden in the nooks and carnies of a car. Sometimes they have to take the cars apart to find the hidden items.

The officers said the cars are being stolen off the streets and then often shipped to Africa. They said drug trafficking organizations and organized crime are using the cars to fund their operations. They reported $60,000 luxury car could be sold for twice that overseas.

It is not the first time CBP has highlighted the level of stolen car smuggling at the port. In July 2020, they reported intercepting 40 stolen vehicles valued at nearly $1.5 million during their outbound enforcement operations and inspection of shipping containers. CBP officers said the shipping containers were destined for countries including Ghana, Iraq, Libya, and Jordan containing everything from sedans to luxury sport utility vehicles, a pickup truck, and even a Rolls-Royce.